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Cold & Flu Season Safety

As the temperature starts to decrease outside, cold and flu season starts to increase. Wellness throughout the season starts with prevention. If you or a loved one does catch an illness, remember to use medications as directed.


  • Stay home if you are not feeling well.
  • Wash your hands often, especially after being out in public and before eating or drinking.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Keep coughs and sneezes contained by using a tissue (or even your elbow!).
  • Disinfect surfaces frequently such as toys, doornobs, and desks.
  • Avoid people who are sick.
  • Get the flu vaccine every year.
  • Ensure you and your family get enough sleep. Being well-rested keeps you well.


The common cold is caused by a virus not a bacteria. That means antibiotics (medicines that fight off bacteria) do not work for the common cold. We must rely on medications to help treat our symptoms since there is no cure. Symptoms of the common cold include sneezing, sore throat, coughing, congestion, and runny nose. There are countless medications available over-the-counter (OTC) to treat these symptoms. Many of these are combination products, meaning they contain more than one ingredient. It is important to select the right product and to always follow dosing recommendations closely. Follow these tips to keep you and your family safe while using cold medications:

  • Practice safe storage: The Missouri Poison Center receives many calls about children getting into the cold medicine because they think it tastes good. Keep all medicines up and out of reach of children. Do not give medications intended for adults to children.
  • Use as directed: OTC medications have a drug facts panel. This will tell you what is in the product, how much to take, and how often to take it. Cough/cold medications typically contain more than one active ingredient. Do NOT use more than one product with the same ingredient. To learn more about each section of the drug facts panel, read our Trending Topics article here and see the image below.
  • Measure the dose correctly: Syringes are the best and most accurate tool for measuring liquid medication. Ask your pharmacist for a syringe with every prescription of liquid medication filled at your pharmacy. Review the correct measurement with the pharmacist before leaving the pharmacy so that you will know exactly how much medication to give to your child. Double check the dosing syringe before giving the medication to make sure you measured the correct amount!


It may come as a surprise but cough and cold medications are abused by teenagers…and their source is often their own medicine cabinet. Many of these medications contain dextromethorphan, which can have mind-altering or euphoric effects if taken in larger amounts than recommended. Cold medications may also contain antihistamines such as diphenhydramine, which can be abused for its sedative or euphoric effects. When misused or abused, these medications can cause serious health effects that result in hospitalization or even death. To help keep your teenagers safe, lock up medications or store them out of sight and talk to them about the dangers of drug abuse. To learn more about cough medicine abuse, check out this infographic from Stop Medicine Abuse or go to

CHPA-CheckYourShelf-FNL-12-17-14If you have any questions about poisonings, call the Missouri Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.  The poison center is open all day, every day for poisoning emergencies and questions.  The call is free and confidential.

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